Death toll in Spain from storm hits six

3 min

Barcelona (AFP)

The death toll from a storm that has lashed Spain with strong winds and heavy snow rose to six on Wednesday, while four people are missing, officials said.

Police found the body of a man on Wednesday in a flooded area in the eastern region of Valencia where they were looking for a 67-year-old man who went missing when his car got swept up in a flash flood, a local police spokesman said.

Two other deaths were recorded in the southern region of Andalusia -- among them a 77-year-old farmer killed after a greenhouse collapsed on him in a hailstorm, police said.

The death toll could rise further, officials said. Four people are still thought to be missing after Storm Gloria crashed into eastern Spain on Sunday with gusts of over 100 kilometres (60 miles) per hour, massive waves, snow and freezing rain.

The gale-force winds and huge waves smashed into seafront towns, damaging many shops and restaurants, wrecking beach facilities and flooding some streets.

- Flooded rice fields -

Officials are looking for four people, including a 25-year-old British man who went missing on Tuesday while on a beach in the north of the holiday island of Ibiza in the Mediterranean.

Ibiza is part of the Balearic Islands which were hit by waves on Tuesday which reached a record high of 14.77 metres (45.93 feet), according to the port authority.

Spanish media showed images of a powerful wave crashing over a seafront wall and sending water cascading toward the street and nearby buildings in Cala Ratjada in Mallorca, the largest island of the archipelago.

A 27-year-old Spanish man who was practising canyoning -- a sport that combines rappelling, climbing and watersliding through deep gorges -- in Mallorca is among the four missing.

National weather agency Aemet said the storm was starting to abate on Wednesday although it kept the northeastern region of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands on alert.

One of the worst affected areas was the Ebro river delta south of Barcelona where a storm surge swept three kilometres (two miles) inland, according to the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service which released satellite images showing how the surface of the region disappeared under water.

Seawater has flooded about 30 square kilometres (12 square miles) of rice plants in the region, according to a local rice growers collective.

- France takes hit -

While winter storms are not rare on Spain's Mediterranean coast, Spain has suffered several episodes of unusually intense rainfall in recent years.

Seven people died in September 2019 in flash floods in southeastern Spain and in October 2018, 13 people died on Mallorca as intense rain caused rivers to overflow with raging waters that tore through streets and swept away cars.

A study published in October by the Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change (MedECC), which groups more than 600 scientists, said episodes of heavy rain could increase in the region by 10-20 percent because of climate change.

The storm arrived on Wednesday in France's southernmost Mediterranean department, the Pyrenees-Orientales, which has been placed on alert.

Some 23,000 households were without power in the region and are ski resorts were closed as a precaution.